Leon Haslam Returns to World SuperbikeWhen Tom Sykes announced his departure from the Kawasaki Racing Team at the conclusion of the 2018 World Superbike Championship, the first questions was “who will replace him?”Less than a week later we got the answer: Leon Haslam.
For the first time since 2015, the British rider returns full time to the WorldSBK series, and will ride alongside three-time reigning World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea.These two are no strangers to each other; both rode for the Castrol Honda team in 2013 and 2014, battling the entire season.“I have to say a big thanks to Kawasaki for this opportunity,” says Leon Haslam, 35. “Returning to the World Superbike Championship is something I’m really looking forward to. After scoring race wins, lap records, pole positions and a championship runner-up position in my seven years there it’s going to be great to get back to WorldSBK.“The 2019 season will throw up some new challenges as the competitiveness between the manufacturers continues to be at the highest level but I’m confident that with the professional and successful team behind me we can enjoy plenty of success.”Throughout his SBK careers, which ran eight full seasons since 2003, Haslam has claimed 39 podiums, including five victories.His best season finish to date was 2010 when he finished runner-up aboard the Team Suzuki Alstar GSX-R1000 behind Max Biaggi (Aprilia RSV4).Haslam’s last time on the WorldSBK grid was during the Donington Park round last season. He rode as a wildcard for the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team, earning second in race one.Speaking of the signing, KRT team manager Guim Roda says: “It’s understandably tough to replace a rider of Tom’s quality and the final decision to sign Leon for 2019 was made after considering many factors, some obvious and others to answer internal team factors.“There’s a complex sporting strategy behind this decision, and to satisfy our team goals we felt that Leon was the best possible rider for the job. Rumors and speculation have filled many of the last weeks and we are happy to finally confirm Leon as the KRT choice.“KHI knows, I know, he knows, and crew chief Marcel Duinker knows that he takes onto his shoulders a big responsibility and, at 35 years of age, to get this opportunity is his best chance to prove he still has something extra to contribute.“We have a clear idea where to find this contribution and I’m personally motivated to use his experience matched to ours to try to make a stronger package that nobody has yet witnessed from Leon. As we say in KRT… ‘Results are the greatest evidence of endeavor’.”